SMEs: Small, Medium, and Extraordinary

SMEs: Small, Medium, and Extraordinary

SMEs are suffering severely from the COVID-19 crisis. Three experts look at the backbone of our economy from different perspectives and show where support is possible.

SMEs employ over two-thirds of the labor force in Switzerland and the rest of Europe, and half of all workers in the USA. SMEs form the backbone of our economy, but they’re particularly the ones that are suffering severely as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. A study conducted by McKinsey & Company revealed that more than half of the roughly 2,200 European SMEs surveyed are questioning whether they can survive until summer 2021. Three different perspectives show that it pays to support SMEs today and even once the crisis is over.

The Hiking Guide has been offering snowshoe, trekking, and hiking adventures for four years now. Company founder Jörg Hehlen is a participant on This donation platform for the benefit of Swiss SMEs was co-launched during the COVID-19 crisis by several employees of SIX on their own private initiative.

 “As is common in the outdoor recreation sector, I hold multiple jobs, so I’m not entirely dependent on the revenue from Moreover, my fixed costs are low. I don’t need a fleet of tools or vehicles to do my work, and my office is the mountains. Other colleagues in the tourism industry and the restaurant business have been hit harder by the COVID-19 crisis than I have. The 4Switzerland platform is a welcome gesture that’s almost more valuable to me psychologically than financially. My financial situation, by the way, was better during the hard lockdown than it is at the moment. During the hard lockdown, tours weren’t allowed at all, and compensation was thus paid out by the social insurance office or through partial unemployment benefits. That compensation has now been discontinued even though the small trekking group sizes due to the strict COVID-19 restrictions reduce my revenue. Ironically, demand would actually be there because the Swiss are vacationing in Switzerland these days, and the great outdoors presents a welcome change from being cooped up working from home. That, at least, lets me look to the future with confidence.”

The Stage Manager

Andrea von Bartenwerffer has been working for SIX since December 2007. As the head of issuer relations, she’s in charge of assisting and supporting the roughly 230 companies listed on the Swiss Stock Exchange, many of which are SMEs.

“Any company, large or small, that goes public on a stock exchange generally does so to gain access to capital. In order for that to function efficiently, companies need a modicum of trading liquidity. Shares of SMEs are often less liquid for a variety of reasons, for instance, because they may be inadequately visible to investors due to a lack of research reports by equity analysts. The Stage program from SIX helps SMEs listed on the Swiss Stock Exchange to reach more capital market participants. The Stage program includes a regularly updated company overview fact sheet and independent research reports prepared by our experienced partners. More visibility arouses greater interest in a stock and enhances SMEs’ presence on the capital market.”

The Innovator

Andreas Kästner and 11 fellow students in the master’s program in business innovation at the University of St. Gallen received an assignment from SIX in September 2020. Over the course of a three month project, they gave thought to the future of capital markets.

“Our reflections go far beyond the economic concept of capital. We consider environmental, social, and symbolic aspects, for instance, equally as important for the future. Those aspects have found their way into the world of finance in the form of impact investing and ESG criteria used to rate companies’ environmental, social, and corporate governance practices. However, ESG ratings don’t always live up to their promises regarding their effectiveness and transparency. Moreover, SMEs, which are vital to our economic system, and startup companies as well most commonly cannot afford the expense of publishing ESG reports. Our project thus culminated in the elaboration of a business model for an “impulse marketplace” that connects sustainable, innovative SMEs and startups with investors who want to put an end to greenwashing. The impulse marketplace collaboratively combines cooperation with non-governmental organizations and forms of artificial intelligence to verify the soundness of the participating companies.”